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General impressions of the UK for the first time in a long time

General impressions of the UK for the first time in a long time

Old Sep 18th, 2023, 08:21 AM
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General impressions of the UK for the first time in a long time

Just got back from 2 weeks there, first visit in over 5-10 years.

A few new things I've noticed. For one, vaping seems pretty popular, a lot of people doing it and there are shops with signs advertising that they have vaping products.

This trip included brief stays in Salisbury, Bath and Cheltenham and vaping was present in all the places. Maybe not in the small villages in the Cotswolds, which I visited as day trips.

Seems like the fad passed in the US a couple of years ago, maybe with the pandemic and maybe it's still popular over there?

The other thing which I never noticed before over there were open sales of spirits in the public. There were these little vans and trailers, which in other places are used to sell ice cream but instead are near places like Covent Garden and the riverfront near the London Eye. I know at pubs people can take their pints and drink them right outside but I didn't know you could buy cocktails out on the street. Maybe this is a new thing?

I'm also seeing a ton of fast casual chains now, offering both dine in and takeaway. Lot of Japanese, Asian, Italian and various coffee chains all over the place. London has always been big on takeaway or "pret a manger" food, more variety and quality than almost anywhere else. But I see these chains in all the other cities as well.

Oddly though, no fast casual Indian food chains, given how prominent Indian food is in the UK. But actually a lot of these prepared foods can be stored cold and eaten cold, which may not be so true of Indian food. But the supermarkets had tons of ready to heat and eat Indian options too.

In any event, good way to avoid indoor dining in public. I was fortunate to have had mostly very good weather, temperatures a few times even in the 80s. So even in rainy UK, there were a lot of outdoor tables and they were pretty well occupied. But also convenient to take away, though most of these places, by noon, a lot of the takeaway options which are shelved have been snapped up.

I don't think I've ever visited UK when the Pound was under $1.30. Yet the prices were very high, especially in London. That's not new but it seemed to be especially the case when I booked a few months ago.

If the UK is suppose to be going through economic doldrums, didn't really see signs of it.
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Old Sep 18th, 2023, 09:12 AM
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Great feedback. Visiting London in a few weeks in addition to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Our daughter was in London during Christmas this past year having been there for month long class in 2007. She said what was very noticeable to her was the amount of bakeries and pastry shops everywhere. She attributed that to the popularity of the Great British Baking Show perhaps?
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Old Sep 18th, 2023, 10:43 AM
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Keep in mind that the laws regarding anything are not necessarily the same in Scotland.
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Old Sep 18th, 2023, 01:07 PM
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I am surprised you don't see a lot of vaping in the US. Here in New Zealand there are vaping shops everwhere, and a lot of school kids are doing it, which is causing a lot of consternation here.
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Old Sep 18th, 2023, 02:03 PM
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That made me laugh since that was the first thing I noticed when we got to London in May after being away since 2019. Everyone was vaping and clutching onto their vape sticks like their lives depended on it. Where I live people barely smoke (it’s illegal to smoke anywhere public in Santa Barbara) and I rarely see anyone vaping. Likewise Bay Area. Maybe it’s a bigger thing in other parts of the country but pretty minimal here. Well I prefer it to cigarette smoke, which they were still doing in Paris. The other big difference was that we never got any British (or euros) money. First Atm didn’t work and we quickly discovered that lots of places have signs that say no cash so we used Apple Pay and CC. Third thing was that restaurants that we liked in London and Paris now take reservations online instead of queueing up or having to call them. Think that happened during Covid.
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Old Sep 18th, 2023, 03:58 PM
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In California, all the flavors were banned because they just suck kids into smoking. Also, vaping isn't good for your lungs and that is being talked about more.
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Old Sep 18th, 2023, 04:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Barbara
In California, all the flavors were banned because they just suck kids into smoking. Also, vaping isn't good for your lungs and that is being talked about more.
Oh I agree just saying that being surrounded by cigarette smoke when youíre sitting outside is terrible. Paris they seemed to still be smoking but vaping was also prevalent.
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Old Sep 18th, 2023, 04:52 PM
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Hi SCRB,
Thank you for these impressions. We need more like them here.
I am done. The vape
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Old Sep 18th, 2023, 07:04 PM
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I live in a town that doesn't allow public smoking or vaping. Vaping isn't "cool" here like it once was, especially after all the negative health studies came out.

Many years ago, before placing our food orders, we walked out of two restaurants (Paris, Vienna) because of the cigarette smoke. We told both places why we were leaving.
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Old Sep 18th, 2023, 08:01 PM
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London is certainly expensive, even with the current exchange rate. Seemed much cheaper when I lived there many decades ago when it was $2.50 to the pound. Then again as a student I didnít spend much money anyway and the tube and theatre were quite cheap.
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Old Sep 18th, 2023, 09:23 PM
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Smoking is much more common in Europe than North America. More than the numbers it's the range of people who still smoke. It's more like the 1980s in North America or even earlier.
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Old Sep 18th, 2023, 09:33 PM
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Going there in December. Thanks for the observations!

BTW agree with above; almost never see people vaping or smoking these days (Bay Area, Calif.).
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Old Sep 18th, 2023, 11:41 PM
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Given the dangers of the wires giving off metal particles into the smoke/air stream and thence into the lungs, it is hard to see the bright idea of these things. BTW we do have a shop in our small town in Yorkshire but you don't see many people using them on the street.

As always London is special (as in not representative of the UK)
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Old Sep 19th, 2023, 12:10 AM
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An interesting perspective scrb11.

Some impressions/responses from a local that splits their time between London and Oxfordshire.

Vaping - Being an ardent anti-smoker I feel much the same way about vaping. There are numerous vaping shops around though I wouldn't say it is "pretty popular" here. Though from trips to California last year, it seems more prevalent here though I think it is primarily an age/socio economic thing so I suppose it depends on where you go. Dont like either but prefer vaping to smoking any day. It seems a government crackdown is about to happen if only for kids.

Open Air Cocktails - Yes, they are a relatively new phenomenon, born out of the growth in food trucks and open air eating due partially at least to the pandemic. When I worked in the city (financial district) drinking out side of pubs on the streets was a big thing in the summer evenings when people would generally grab a pint before braving the tube/train home. It seems you can move in Soho and the west end these days without falling over drinkers standing outside of pubs or tables spread out on the street for diners. We were recently in Borough Market for lunch and stopped for a Margarita and Mojito at one stall - just two of around ten cocktails ON DRAUGHT! A first for me!

Costs - Without a doubt, London is now one of the most expensive cities in the world. In the last year or so, in terms of big cities we have visited LA, San Francisco and Sydney. Before going we were expecting all to be more expensive than London. We were surprised to find that all three were less expensive in terms of accommodation and food. That said, within the UK , London is clearly way more expensive than anywhere else. Tourist centres like the Cotswolds, Bath etc are also pretty expensive.

Fast food - Yes we have all the chains though given the quality of food, I am surprised that many are still operating. Lots of new kids on the block offering some amazing food in various places both in and out of London but sad to see the demise of the "traditional " Italian sandwich shops I used to frequent when working in the city and Westminster. I guess a direct result of people not returning to work from the offices after home working for so long. Office building vacancies have grown exponentially - all very concerning for the business districts.

Safety - I wonder how you felt walking the streets of our towns and cities? I was quite shocked at what we experienced in San Francisco and parts of LA. Some very aggressive beggars/street people in city centres and on public transport. Homelessness and begging is a problem throughout the UK but it seems nowhere close to the problem in the US and little of the agression we saw in the US.

Economy - against most expectations, the UK economy is holding up surprisingly well, certainly better than most EU countries.

Last edited by Moderator1; Sep 19th, 2023 at 07:01 AM. Reason: removed political comments
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Old Sep 19th, 2023, 01:57 AM
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Fascinating first impressions. Smoking, Fast food and alcohol - what does this tell you about the direction of travel in the UK?
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Old Sep 19th, 2023, 02:26 AM
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Originally Posted by stevelyon
Fascinating first impressions. Smoking, Fast food and alcohol - what does this tell you about the direction of travel in the UK?
Not a lot!
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Old Sep 19th, 2023, 04:43 AM
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well actual data suggests smoking in the UK continues to fall but vaping is replacing it, with kids being sucked into it by the sweet stuff, legislation is in discussion
fast food is on the rise and equates to increase in weight as per other western countries but probably ahead of the curve, again legislation is in discussion but....
alchohol has always been part of the UK culture, but actual numbers who do not drink is growing while pubs continue to close. So basically cheap booze sells and that is what you are seeing

As one of my Italian friends pointed out (talking about Italy) that as one drug gets removed from fashion another one replaces it. His town has just reduced drug taking and is now finding alcholism is growing.
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Old Sep 19th, 2023, 04:52 AM
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Thanks for reporting back scrb11, am following your thread with great interest. Was last in the UK in June 2017, so itís been a while, hope to go back next fall.

Itís sad about vaping, which seems to be on the rise, especially with the young. Cheap alcohol from food trucks, what next? And prices are rising everywhere, London has always been up there right at the top.

Last edited by geetika; Sep 19th, 2023 at 04:55 AM.
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Old Sep 19th, 2023, 06:27 AM
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During my Sept. 2022 trip, I felt, much like in Chicago, the English had grown far less welcoming to tourists post-covid. In London, I didn't notice this as much as this was during the queen's death, but outside the city, in the days before she passed, I encountered an impatience and general misery from the locals I'd not felt before. Not necessarily surprising as Chicago was the same with businesses closed, and hotels and restaurants short-staffed. I was surprised by the cold stares I received when wearing a mask around the UK. This was a respectful thing to do in crowded areas, but most locals didn't mask up. I even had one surly old guy on a bus near Disley who instantly said he couldn't understand me beneath my mask when I asked a question, though his companion answered me right away. (We have those types who conflate science with politics/racism around the US, too.)

I was there, unfortunately, when the queen died. The display of flowers/cards/paddington bears in the Green Park was wasteful and polluting. And to anyone with a smidgeon of knowledge of the history of monarchy and imperialism, the reaction seemed absurd. It felt hysterical and performative to this American. I spoke to only one man in a theater who voiced anti-royalist views, though he did direct his negativity toward the children rather than Elizabeth.

As for the drinking, I've seen young men crack open beers in the morning on my bus rides (outside London), and of course the pub culture seems deeply entrenched country-wide. Different than what I'm used to in Chicago, but pre- or post-covid, the alcohol prevalence is the same. At least the UK doesn't allow pot, which is the stink we have around Chicago. (Old woman shaking her fist)

We'll see how things go this time around, but I admit, I will keep my head down around the locals. (And I'm recently covid-boosted, and will still wear my mask in crowded areas.)
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Old Sep 19th, 2023, 06:50 AM
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Yes mask wearing has gone in my experience with only the very old wearing them. I still stick one in a bag when I'm out but that is all. I don't think there is any politics/covid cross contamination here, only the numpties think Covid could be cured by [insert silly idea here] and luckily we only had a few thousand of those.

Last edited by bilboburgler; Sep 19th, 2023 at 07:07 AM.
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